Government wants employee activism in the workplace to address harassment

The Department of Employment and Labour’s deputy director of Employment Equity Policy and Compliance, Niresh Singh, has called on the employees and trade unions to be active participants in the implementation of policies that seek to eliminate issues of harassment in the workplace.

Singh was speaking at the Department of Employment and Labour’s 22nd Annual Employment Equity (EE) Roadshow in collaboration with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) in Pretoria.

“We have employment equity reports and for the designated employers where they indicate whether they have those policies. We also encourage workplace activism and that is why we call on employees to participate,” said Singh.

“In terms of the Employment Equity Act and even with the Labour Relations Act, employers are required to consult with employees on various matters. The Department encourages workplace activism where employees including the trade unions become active members to see that these policies and procedures are in place to be implemented,” said Singh.

Singh said that the department’s Inspection and Enforcement Services allows the department to advocate on many labour issues including the issues of harassment in the workplace.

“In terms of Section 60, an employer can be taken to task to implement policies around harassment matters in the workplace. Let’s all take that responsibility, including the Department to get the job done.”

CCMA Commissioner in Pretoria, Vuyokazi May who delivered a presentation on the CCMA case law of all types of harassment, said victims of harassment in the workplace are expected to confront their alleged perpetrator.

“What is required of you is to let the perpetrator know that the conduct is unwelcome. But the law understands that it’s not easy for a person who is in a junior position to tell a boss or a CEO that what you are doing to me is unwelcome. So, yes you are expected to let them know, but in instances where you cannot, we are going to be looking at the seniority of the person who is a perpetrator and check whether they are reasonable and ought to have known that their conduct is unwelcome,” said May.

“In terms of the Employment Equity Act, what is required before you come to the CCMA is for you to have taken reasonable steps to address the issue with the employer. Reasonable steps do not mean that you need to exhaust internal procedures. It needs you to alert the employer.

“Unlike a case of constructive dismissal. But with these cases, there is no expectation for you to exhaust the internal procedures, as you are required to take reasonable steps by alerting the employer. The only thing for the employer is to protect you if you alert them,” said commissioner May.


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